Watering to the desert for a thousand years

“The valley of Lima where the city is located, is large and wide…. this province, like many others, is irrigated by waterways leading from the River, in which there is plentiful water for everyone, and sufficient to fertilise even more land.” Juan López de Velasco, Cosmógrafo de Indias, 1574.

Ten million people living on a coastal plain where it never rains – that is the paradox of Lima – the biggest desert city, some say, after Cairo, after Las Vegas. And yet there are green parks in every district.

If Google Earth’s timeline could go back a thousand years, it would show us the lands of present day Lima as a plain dotted with hundreds of temple mounds, Huacas, surrounded by farmland. Six or more major streams, dividing into streamlets, rivulets and irrigation ditches, take water from the River Rimac to fertile fields and villages from La Molina, San Borja and Surco down to Barranco and Chorrillos, San Isidro and Magdalena, Maranga and Callao.

All the large parks of Lima – the Parque de los Leyendas, the San Isidro Golf Course, the Jockey race track, Campo de Marte and Bosque el Olivar are still watered by these ancient canals. The Spanish built their city around the Plaza de Armas where a channel brought water to the several pyramids where now sit the Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. Nineteenth and early twentieth century pictures show the stream that flowed along the Western side of the Plaza de Armas.DIFUSIÓNThe ancient system of irrigation throughout the Rimac delta, providing water for farms, houses and Huacas before the Spanish arrived.

Flora Tristan, Gaugin`s aunt, visiting Lima in 1834, wrote “the streets, well delineated, are long and wide. Water runs through two ditches along almost all of them, one on each side. Just a few have a small stream in the centre. At the back of the houses is a kitchen and lodging for the slaves. It never rains.”

On the surface, much has changed. But underground a vast network of channels makes this desert city green, with hundreds of workers managing and adjusting the direction and speed of the flow to take water to each place at the appointed time.

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Time to pay for the duck say Brazilians

17 April 2016 – Paulista, the main business street in the centre of Brazil’s commercial capital Sao Paulo, is packed with thousands wearing green and yellow shirts and facepaint, or draped in Brazilian flags, and gathered at the focal point of this and previous demonstrations, the FIESP building, headquarters of the Industrial Federation of the State of Sao Paulo.
A giant 12 metre tall inflatable yellow duckling looks down on the flag-waving crowds whilst many in the crowd fly yellow duck balloons.
The ducks refer to the campaign by the Industrial Federation to oust the President with the slogan “It’s time to pay for the duck”. This means something like “The party is over”, a call for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

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Still seeking justice on state sterilisations

“They falsified the signature of my husband and it does not match his identity card.” says Felicitas from Cuzco. “They lied that they authorised the sterilisation that took place without my consent. I never accepted. They put me under anaesthetic and completed the ligation. I seek justice and truth. Listen to me.”

The events she describes took place twenty years ago, but Felicitas may begin to see justice and truth this month when the State Prosecutor decides whether to send to court the case of the allegedly forced sterilisation of hundreds of thousands of women in the poorest regions of Peru.

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No stopping Brazil’s Car Wash clean-up

For three days here on the streets of São Paulo the people have been expressing their views on the future of Brazil. On Wednesday street demonstrators called for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. On Thursday another crowd gathered to say “No to the coup!” – implying a right wing plot to topple the government.

Today, Saturday, Paulista has a jolly atmosphere, mostly supporting the leader of the corruption investigation, judge Moro. Inflatable dolls of Dilma in striped convicts’ shirt are selling well. The flags, balloons, singing and drumming represent a cheerful Brazilian way of dealing with issues that are actually deeply troubling for the country, its government and its future.
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Time for a change in Buenos Aires

At one end of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, within sight of the Presidential Palace, Pablo is discreetly offering passers-by “change…cambio…dollars”.

“You understand this is the “blue” rate, not official,” he explains as we walk down a narrow passage off the main road, “we can give you 15 pesos to the dollar.” The official rate is closer to 9 pesos to the dollar.

It is tough for exporters to Argentina today – the government tightly controls access to foreign currency. But Argentina remains dependent on imports, and the government is running out of money to support the double exchange rate.

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Fish murals fighting gang warfare

IMG_3608The Plaza del Matrix is a tidy little paved square with benches in front of the cathedral church in wedding cake pink and white. The square is flanked by colonial buildings with freshly painted yellow plaster walls, colonnades and upper balconies. Behind is a cluster of concrete cylinders 11 stories high, and beyond that, stacked containers and loading cranes on the docks. Across the Plaza is a mural showing a brown man and a pink man, with arms round each other’s shoulders. They could be holding each other up, or pulling each other down. Welcome to Callao, Lima’s historic port.
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Time to tango for Argentine business

The Tango, invented in Buenos Aires, is a taut, teasing, intricate dance for two. And foreign businesses looking for opportunities in Argentina can soon find themselves taking the first steps in their own version of Argentina’s national dance. Because in many sectors you can’t go it alone. You need a counterpart.

There are tough obstacles to imports, starting with product registration. Unless you have an office in the country you must appoint an Argentina business to submit your application. You need to find someone you can trust to work with – even then, it may take up to a year. This Buenos Aires conference was a speed-dating event for importers looking for a partner.

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Drought hit Brazil seeks solar power

For three years Brazil has been hit by power cuts, hurting business and creating headaches for the government. The reason – Brazil put all its energy eggs in the hydroelectric basket.
65% of its energy should come from hydroelectric power, but poor rains since 2013 have left the reservoirs half empty.

Now the government sees solar power as the quick, clean way to increase capacity. In less than a year, the solar-voltaic panel market has become worth billions of dollars.
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Clock ticking for lead fuelled crime wave

Crime levels in Lima will start to fall in six to eighteen months – whoever wins next the upcoming elections.

Between end June 2016 and end June 2017, the wave of shootings, street attacks, house robbery and murder will decline. Whether or not the new president sends armed soldiers to patrol the streets.

It will happen because 20 years ago, lead poisoning on the streets of Lima started to reduce. It will follow a pattern seen all over the world, but apparent a little later in Peru. So buy cheap property in Callao today.

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Cusco heritage protest snares tourists

20,000 people marched through the streets of Cusco last week to protest a new law enabling private enterprises to take over the management of archaeological sites in Peru.

Thousands of tourists were left stranded as PeruRail closed the railway to Macchu Picchu “as a security measure”. Tourists arriving in Cusco by bus had to walk from blockades in the suburbs.

“We are not asking for the law to be modified, we want it repealed” said General Secretary of the Cusco Workers Federation Wilfredo Alvarez.

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